Hilton Kramer was one of those Americans whom once upon a time I had heard of as a maker and breaker of cultural reputations. All I then knew about him was that his opinion really mattered. And there this awesome figure was at a conference in London. What survives is one of those small moments that the memory engraves unaccountably. Hilton was talking about a Marxist artist who was committing the very offenses for which the artist damned everybody else, and this was—a long pause, wait for it, with a genial smile right across Hilton’s face, the voice inflected rather than raised—“rather rich.”
Not impolite, nor ideologically blown off course, but still firm, he won arguments and established his own point of view in just this style. He was at his best with like-minded people—conversation between him and Sam Lipman that I heard in the office of The New Criterion would have satisfied Socrates and de Tocquevi ...
David Pryce-Jones is a senior editor at National Review
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